Update: Undocumented immigrant activists call off hunger strike, sit-in
Update: After a six-day sit-in and hunger strike, young undocumented immigrants Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez left their brief home at the Obama For America headquarters at 5:20 p.m. today. As the National Immigrant Youth Alliance pushes plans to spread their call for an executive order from Obama to the national level, the two activists say they wanted to end their personal efforts to guarantee greater media attention for others.
Big photos below.
And because they also expect arrests in the project's future, they wanted to leave the building before that happened -- to them or others. "There are other actions coming up even this week, and we wanted to be out before they happened, to give others a chance to do the same," Hernandez says.
City councilman Paul Lopez visited the protesters before their exit, and their supporters cheered for them as they vacated the building. They made the decision to leave this morning, Hernandez says, "and when we called the people at the headquarters to come and unlock the front door for us, they were really happy. We're both tired."
Yesterday, Senator Irene Aguilar checked their health and warned both not to eat solid foods for the next two days. This means a delay before their dream food -- chicken and black beans (Hernandez) and a hamburger (Gomez). In the meantime, "It feels nice to smell fresh air," Gomez says.
Update, 2:16 p.m. June 11: For almost six days, Veronica Gomez and Javier Hernandez have staged a hunger-strike inside Denver's Obama For America campaign headquarters to urge the President to sign an executive order halting the deportation of undocumented immigrant youth like themselves. This week, they expect a national response to their efforts. Over the weekend, Senator Irene Aguilar visited the protesters to check on their condition, which has its ups and downs.
"Yesterday, it was really hard for us, especially for Javier," Gomez says of their hunger. "We have heartburn. Mentally, we feel like we can do this still, but physically our bodies are telling us differently."
Aguilar, who is also a doctor, recommended five bottles of PediaLyte per day, Gomez says, which means the activists will need to increase their previous intake by four rations daily. Although their hunger strike is taking its toll on their bodies, they say the physical occupation became easier when they organized a friendly discussion with one of the Obama For America campaign employees over the weekend. Since Tuesday, they have occupied the headquarters' front room, and its front door is locked to prohibit others from entering. They have essentially shut down the building.
Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez Courtesy of Campaign for an American Dream
"They wanted to know when it was going to end and said we were disrupting their campaign," Gomez says, " and we talked about our message and our plans. Since then, It's been a lot better communication, but we're still sticking to our message."
A religious group, a live band and a troupe of indigenous dancers also visited the Gomez and Hernandez during the weekend to say a prayer and perform in support of the activists. This morning, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance issued a call to action, asking supporters to occupy other Obama headquarters across the country with a similar message.
Supporters greet the activists from outside the front window. Courtesy of Campaign for an American Dream
"We will not accept gridlock as an excuse for our deportations when the President can stop them with an executive order," the statement reads. "We will occupy these offices as long as necessary."
In the meantime, Hernandez and Gomez will hold a press conference today at 5 p.m., and they promise "big news" about their future plans -- and their protest's longevity.
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